The role of awards in the film industry is bound to be a contentious discussion at any dinner table Gwyneth Paltrow’s Oscar acceptance speech springs to mind but for an emerging filmmaker it might be just the thing they need.

IF caught up with two of the 2008 nominees for the EFILM IF Rising Talent Award Amy Gebhardt and Leon Ford to discuss how awards factor into a director’s career.

“It's not like it will be the reason you get a job, or the reason people send you scripts,” says Ford, who won in 2008 and recently directed romantic-comedy Griff the Invisible.

“[But] the IF Awards sort of make people feel more secure about employing you because they might have a feeling about you and they might think they like your scripts but it's only them.”

Taking a break from sorting through the plethora of uploaded content for the YouTube Screen Australia initiative Map My Summer, Gebhardt expressed similar sentiments:

“Exposure through awards and nominations like Rising Talent helps you with leverage and momentum within the industry – which ideally exists in tandem with your own ripening creative progress,” she says.

Although she missed out on the IF Award in 2008, she did take out Kodak's Best New Director Award in the same year.

“A little bit of affirmation from the industry in you and your work undoubtedly gives investors and funding bodies confidence to invest in you,” she says.

One person who has since invested in Amy is Australian legend and industry heavyweight Dr George Miller (Mad Max, Babe, Happy Feet), who selected her to captain Map My Summer.

Miller will also be collaborating with Gebhardt as she fashions a short film from YouTube uploads in time for the premiere at the Sydney Film Festival’s closing night.

“I feel like I have a responsibility to shift the framing, a little, of how the mainstream sees itself,” laughs Gebhardt of her pending introduction to a mass audience.

For Ford who was already 15 years into an acting career at the time – “to get that award planted my feet firmly in the camp of directing, which is really helpful again and really significant”.

Both directors describe the award in terms of momentum – Gebhardt snapped up her second ABC documentary series (Carnival Queen) following the nomination, while Ford funneled the heat from his win into Griff the Invisible.

“It came about at exactly the right time to be honest you’ve got to convince so many people to come on board for a film. It's not just the funding bodies and the state agencies and stuff like that, it's distributors and commercial interests and you know, overseas."

The film has since been released in Australia and recently secured a June release date for North America.

It seems we will soon be seeing Gebhardt's work in the local cinema too, as she confesses to having set her sights firmly on a feature.

Fallena dark, ensemble piece is currently in development. The filmmaker is also developing another film project, which will involve her collaborating with a choreographer and other non-actors, following her involvement in the BigPond Adelaide Film Festival's “cross-pollination” initiative The Hive.

Ford’s next project is a feature length reimagining of his 2005 short film The Mechanicals.

Leon Ford (left) and EFILM general manager Anthos Simon.

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